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Rochefort's 'History': the poetics of collusion in a colonizing narrative.

A select compilation of bibliographical literature for the West Indies during the period 1650-1795 yields some twenty-six titles of works styling themselves variously as histories, travel accounts, and miscellaneous memoirs from abroad, all purporting to describe the natural, moral, civil, and commercial behavior of Caribbean inhabitants, mostly the indigenous but also (inevitably) the immigrants and the Creoles (Goveia 179-81). Of the diverse genres represented, the category "history" is by far the most common. Familiar and obvious as this conventional label may be, the objects of the discourses were not. Charles de Rochefort's Natural and Moral History of the Caribby Islands is a work whose relation to the specific historical moment of West Indian colonization exemplifies this tension between label and contents.(1)

At the deep structure of its unconscious narrative intentions, the History configures the dynamics of this tension into a rhetorical trope of collusion.(2) Assimilating historical narrative to literary discourse, collusion incorporates modes of allegory, notions of play, and poetic constructions to make Rochefort's meaning. It transcends the strictly-drawn confines of history to remap the traditional categories of civilization and barbarism; it reimagines the presumptions of difference, knowledge, and value that privilege subject above Other.

That such far-reaching realignments and disruptions would result from European-Carib encounters was foreshadowed over eighty years earlier in Michel de Montaigne's Des Cannibales (1580). Through an interpreter, Montaigne had interviewed one of three Tupinamba (native Brazilians) visitors with whom Charles IX had held an audience at Rouen in 1562. Through reports, formal and popular alike, Montaigne was well informed about the activities of exploration and colonization, about the New World indigenes, their manners and their mores. Montaigne's essay is the indisputable locus classicus of a new interpretive method for the terms of interaction between "savage" and "civilized" so characteristic of colonizing narratives. The slippages, the designs, the deviousness figured in Rochefort are all intimated in Montaigne's sagely ironic observations on the meaning and consequences of the European-Amerindian encounter. Tempering the excitement of novelty with cautious skepticism against assuming final knowledge from limited contact, Montaigne insists on factoring into the construction of New World epistemology the universal problems of chauvinism and bias, the insoluble enigma of the Other's elusiveness. In a prophetic pre-text to the deeper allegorical references in Rochefort, the essay deflates the sonorous pretensions displayed in the cosmographic titles of histories like Rochefort's, emphasizing the gap between desire and comprehension, between reach and grasp. "I am afraid," Montaigne wrote, "we have eyes bigger than our stomachs, and more curiosity than capacity. We embrace everything, but clasp only wind" (150).

Montaigne reveals a deeply ironic understanding of the limitations of travelers' and authors' judgments about exotic places ("they cannot help altering history a little. They never show you things as they are, but bend and disguise them according to the way they have seen them" [152]). He questions the validity of categories like barbarism and savagery ("each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice" [152]); and, on the whole, elaborates a remarkably liberal, enlightened critique of difference, concluding his affirmations with the coded tag "All this is not too bad--but what's the use? They don't wear breeches" (159).

The allusion to nudity brings us back to Rochefort, for to a considerable degree, the collusions of his text are aimed at normalizing that practice.

Nearly a hundred years intervened between the Tupinambas' travels in France and the first edition of Rochefort's History (1658). Neither the sparse biographical record nor the internal evidence of his text furnishes any suggestion that Rochefort personally met or saw the Tupinambas during their visits, or that he ever set foot in the New World. Still, he accounted himself fortunate to have had access to the testimony of reputable eyewitnesses. Chief among these he named a certain du Montel (reputed to have lived among the Caribs of Dominica), a Mr. Brigstock (the principal source for his account of pre-Columbian Carib history), and sundry former inhabitants of the American colonies (acknowledged in his preface for providing certain memoirs from which this work was developed). Marginal citations and factual details in the History show that Rochefort drew generously from the principal sources that helped to shape French notions of Carib ethnography: Peter Martyr, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Jose de Acosta, Theodore de Bry and Jean Mocquet, to name only a few. Almost without exception, these authors disseminated images of the Caribs as a wholly inhospitable, barbarous lot, whose inveterate ferocity expressed itself in bloodcurdling cannibalism (Boucher 18-22).

Like the assortment of texts alluded to earlier, Rochefort's History attempts to depict the material properties and moral attributes of lands and peoples still not fully assimilated into the European consciousness. But the collusive mechanisms that shape the rhetoric of this historical narrative force a dissent from contemporary intellectual orthodoxy: like Montaigne, Rochefort calls attention to the flawed methods and narrow conceptions of those authors most responsible for the underserved negative images of Caribs. Rochefort feels compelled to invent and redefine "history," in order to display the new body of knowledge constituted by those entities (human and moral) and resources (physical and material) indigenous to the newly appropriated space. The content and procedures of discourses bearing the marker "history," therefore, invite a much closer inquiry to define the precise nature of the narrative economies involved.

In her 1991 book The Ludic Self, Anna Nardo has shown how various expressions of play, literal and figural, offered authors and characters alike (John Donne, George Herbert, Hamlet) ways to live with the contradictions of late-seventeenth-century life. Ludic structures facilitate tolerance for personal and social contradictions and mediate crises in culture via a broad range of discursive formations (17-21). One such crisis in the development of European culture was occasioned by the peculiar conditions of "discovery" and "settlement" of the New World. Rochefort's History illustrates definitely the nature and critical consequences of certain such discursive formations in the ways it deploys collusion as one of its controlling master tropes, as a form of allegory situated at the deep structure of historical narration. It is at this level, according to theoreticians like Hayden White ("Historical Text" 42, 61) and Lionel Gossman (29-33) that the fictive dimensions of history-writing (rhetorical modes, figurative and poetic constructions) are to be found. At this level, too, Rochefort's History makes its meaning by allegorizing notions of play, transcending the strictly drawn confines of "history" and revealing its relation to literary tropes and other unconscious intentions (Carrard 446). Most especially in her discussion of Hamlet, Nardo illustrates how the qualities of doubleness, double bind, and paradox are associated with play. She writes, "play creates a context in which actions both are and are not what they are, both are and are not serious" (21).

Collusion exhibits an interesting parallel (though not identical) etymology with and an even closer semantic relationship to allegory in its common semantic bearings on the notions of play, allusiveness, elusiveness, and oscillation between layers of reference. The Latin word colludere ("to play with," "act collusively") elucidates three main ways in which the trope of collusion functions within the complex constructions of Rochefort's narrative. In the primary sense of "playing together," we may recognize the interplay of antinomial modes of cognition represented by the European subject and the Antillean Other respectively. Vlad Godzich, in his foreword to Michel De Certeau's Heterologies, adverts to the process by which these discourses on the Other tend to dramatize interplay, or shift repeatedly from one "hegemonic mode of cognition to another" (xiii). A second sign of collusion resides in the sense of "playing into each other's hands." Resonant of Said's "permeable" boundaries, the idea of slippage and unwitting entrapment implied in this semantic nuance boldly underlines the tropological relationship of collusion with allegory.(3) Third, as we shall see in the ensuing discussion, collusion in Rochefort is substantially concerned with the "allusive" playing back of assorted texts of ancient and classical learning.(4) In the terms of Stephen Barney's practical critique of allegory, Rochefort's collusions would seem to enact certain principal definitions of allegory: the text represents two parties "engaged in events--beginnings, middles and ends"; subject and other constantly slip into each other's designs, with allusions (collusions) diffused widely across the text, presenting "one thing by a customary route, and another thing more deviously" (16).

At its deepest allegorical levels, then, the ultimate tendency of the History is to concede the irremediable elusiveness of the Other; as such, the Other is only apprehensible within a larger, more inclusive definition of collusion, manifesting itself in Rochefort's History as a trope of play, deceit, or intrigue, marked by oscillation or ambiguity in words or reasoning. A growing body of theoretical discourse drawn widely from across the human sciences bears testimony to this persistence of allegorical/tropological constructions in historical narrative. In historiographical narrative theory, Hayden White offers unqualified acknowledgment that such narratives typically yield a meaning "other" than that expressed in the basic chronicling of events. That "other" is a secondary or figurative meaning "found" in the universal human experience (Content of Form 53). And in ethnographic theory, De Certeau addresses this problem of the Other's elusiveness, suggesting that the object of such discourses may be attainable only within precisely such symbolic significations as we have been discussing (70).

Rochefort's narrativization of the wars between the Apalachites and the Cofachites (later to be known as Caribs) in Book 2, Chapter 7, is replete with collusive transactions. Pleading exasperation at the perceived incoherence of Carib historiography, both among European sources and between those sources and Carib accounts of their own origins, Rochefort throws in his lot with one Master Brigstock, an English Gentleman, "one of the most curious and inquisitive Persons in the World," who was reputed to have traveled extensively in the Southern parts of North America, and whom he adopts as his most reliable source.

Originally inhabiting parts of seventeenth-century Florida, the Cofachites migrated farther north near to the territory of the Apalachites whose lands lay near the foothills of the Appalachians. Rochefort's history of their early intertribal relations is a saga of the Cofachites' migration in search of larger territory, and their subsequent career of invasion, plunder, pillage,

and conquest. Shrewd and not the least disinclined to deceit, the Cofachites wrung from the Apalachites peace terms designed to achieve their objectives: two spacious, fertile provinces within Apalachite domain. The diplomatic discourse that formalized these agreements was a study in duplicitous statecraft on both sides. The public exchange of diplomatic messages mimicked the dynamics of collusion, providing a scene for the reciprocal play of deceit and intrigue that reveals the parties playing into each other's hands. Playing for time, in a cynical pretense of magnanimity, the Apalachites offered the Cofachites the living space they desired, asking only that these new neighbors pledged obedience and loyalty to their King and adherence to their cult of the Sun in return. The Cofachites deceitfully assumed the conditions of the treaty, fully astute to the opportunities such concessions would allow them to exercise their penchant for internal intrigue and bad faith. Emboldened by increasing population, the Cofachites renewed their expansionist designs, annexed one more province, and renounced Sun worship.

A series of reciprocal collusions inform this phase of their relations. Each side used subversive designs and subtle statecraft either to pre-empt or to counteract the other's strategic plays. The Apalachites, for their part, grew impatient with the diminution of their territorial power, and

taking the advantage of the opportunity of that Truce, secretly consulted several times among themselves how they might carry on their designs more successfully among the Caribbians then [sic] they had done before; and having found by sad experience that they had not advanced their affairs much by assaulting their Enemies openly, and by settled Engagements, they resolv'd to supplant them by subtlety, and to that end to think of all ways imaginable to make a division among them, and insensibly to engage them in a Civil War within their own Country (217).

Once more, collusion displays its capacity to trope boundaries that appear essential, fixed, and impermeable but which, viewed as allegorical constructions, dissolve into a transparent fluidity. In the Apalachites' power play, the priests become the architects of the ensuing diplomatic strategy. In the fertility rites of Sun worship held in March and May, the sacred and the secular collude to lure the Cofachites into public participation. Since the elaborate festivities and ceremonial rites are played out at the express instance of the Apalachite King in collusion with the priests, the Cofachites are thus ensnared in a double play of religious tribute and submission to the civil power.

The Cofachites exploit the theatrical possibilities of the occasion to play the loyal subjects, decking themselves out in extravagant costumes flattering to the custom and decorum of their overlords. Action, context, motive, and meaning are all historicized in a rhetoric of playful ambiguity and dissimulation:

that they might be thought to contribute somewhat to the public Solemnity, they dress themselves with all the bravery and magnificence they could; and though that then they were wont to go very lightly clad, and expose their bodies almost naked, yet the more to accommodate themselves to the humours of their Neighbours, whom they were going to visit, they caused all the Furs, Spotted Skins, and Stuffs that they had, to bee made into Cloaths: They forgot not also to cause their faces, their hands, and all those places of their bodies which lay expos'd to be seen, to be painted with a bright red.... (218) Among semioticians, Roland Barthes has provided us a critique of this kind of collusive theatricality in his essay "The Diseases of Costume," in which he defines the "ethic of costume" (42). Though he refers specifically to the veristic use of costume in plays, opera, and other theatrical spectacles, Barthes' propositions in this essay, and the centrality of similar paradigms of symbolic order elsewhere in his theoretical writing prompt an extrapolation from the dynamics of conscious theater to performance structures that are not primarily theatrical in their original motivation (43).

The collusive function of costume as it appears in Rochefort's historicization of the Caribs would assuredly illustrate certain key terms of order articulated in Barthes' delineation of the pathologies or social conflicts manifested by forms of play. First, Barthes' notion of "hypertrophy," defining a costume that fails to keep its value as "pure function" (Barthes 42), is dramatized in Rochefort's exaggerated parodies of cross-dressing. "It is ... always by substances (and not by shapes or colors) that we are finally assured of rediscovering the profoundest version of history" (Barthes 43). Second, Barthes recognizes a theater of power, utilizing a "precise vestimentary code" whose sign is susceptible to a variety of common diseases, the most relevant of which, for our present purposes, would be an "overindication of the sign." This can be discerned in the ironic play of matter and motive oscillating in the language of Rochefort's description: "they dress themselves with all the bravery and magnificence they could;" "they caused all the Furs, Spotted Skins, and Stuffs that they had, to bee made into Cloaths," causing "all those places of their bodies which lay expos'd to be seen, to be painted with a bright red."

In an equal and opposite political counterplay, the Apalachites reciprocate the Cofachites' apparent conformity with munificent gifts and hospitality, and even finer liveries than the Cofachites had brought with them. Thus these reciprocal vestimentary dissimulations collude to trope the politicized distance between liege-lord and client-subject.

Further collusive transactions between the sacerdotal and the secular power drive a wedge among the Cofachites and splinter them into two factions, one inclined to appeasement and Sun worship, the other actuated by nationalistic pride and inclined to stout resistance to preserve their free-born status and their liberty.

Rochefort calls the resultant political division a "contrariety of sentiments" (222). The language of rupture and divided purposes is highly allusive, signifying upon the polysemous nature of the narrative itself: as historiographical discourse, it cannot, as Hayden White reminds us, be construed as purely representational or referential: it is continually alluding to some other image or icon encoded in the historian's (or our own) cultural reality ("Historical Text" 52-53). Continually recalling us to allegory, the narrative in this case invites us to get beyond questions about the "truth value" of its historical statements: "The truth of narrative can display itself only indirectly, that is to say, by means of allegoresis" (Content of Form 46), inviting us to reckon with the elements of figuration, with those "tropes" and "figures of thought" which give historical narrative its literary or "translated" ("carried over") character (Content of Form 48). Other leading theorists have identified and validated this same persistence of figurative terms in historiographical discourse. Ricoeur's engaging disquisitions on this problem in the philosophy of history (232-34) formulate an interpretation which White calls a "metaphysics of narrativity," an explication of the way in which complex actions in a historical narrative comprehend or "grasp together" elements to make meaning (Content of Form 49). In figurative terms, this movement of Rochefort's History would enact White's definition of allegory as a "structure of temporality" (Content of Form 53) in so far as the religious and political oppression of the Cofachites image the coercions visited on the Caribs by the Spaniards and the French in the seventeenth century, and the counterplay of resistance the Caribs deployed in their turn. Moreover, to the degree that allegory essentially produces "excess of meaning" (Ricoeur 234), two figurative functions of the text are herein seen to collude: the trope of the Carib barbarian's dissent from European civilization and the trope of enlightened Western dissent from orthodox epistemologies, both secular and religious, within the civilized world itself (Brulard 89-102).

Tropological structures like collusion enable us to unscramble conflicted motives and debunk the unitary semblance of narrative texts. Edward Said and Mary Louise Pratt have respectively offered theoretical and critical analyses of exemplary colonial and colonizing discourses which have helped us to penetrate the not-always-innocent motives and tendencies of such discourses. Said assumes a skeptical posture in the presence of the typical Western historical and ethnographic subject, describing that presence as an "authoritative, explorative, elegant, learned voice, [that] speaks and analyzes, amasses evidence, theorizes, speculates about everything--except himself--who speaks? For what and to whom?" (212). Pratt illuminates how that seemingly objective voice surveying the physical and human contents of a given landscape, ostensibly in the interests of a rational disinterested scientific and information order, can be shown, more often than not, to be engaged in a prospecting activity that subserves state power (144).

Collusion permits us to extend some of the logical inferences of Said's and Pratt's critique to peer behind the "elegant, learned voice" so seemingly secure in its impregnable citadel of civilized order and intellectual coherence to disclose the text's self-reflexive undertones. Just as the formalizations of play in Apalachite-Cossachite transactions signify allegorical or figurative values, so Rochefort's "elegant," "learned" voice implicates its own subjectivity in the very historicization of its object. The narrative intimates an ambiguous critique of the notion of "the work in progress" at the lower registers of its own civilized voice where self-reflexive collusions are revealed.

One layer of this ambiguity resides in the History's character as a discourse on the natural and moral history of the Caribs. As I have pointed out before, the progress of Rochefort's history is regularly broken by heuristic digressions or plea-like cautions to those readers who might come to the text with pre-formed notions of the nature of the Caribs in particular and of savages in general, notions derived from sources whose collusions are out of joint with his present purposes. The point-by-point delineation of physical features, customs and manners--universal black hair, beardlessness among the men, chastity and modesty among the women, nudity among both sexes, with assiduous evaluations and validations of these mores--refutes and deconstructs those preexistent discourses that retailed horrific images of the Caribs. This species of collusion is revealed in the text's oscillations between the work in progress (Rochefort's History) and the pre-existing discourses that corroborate or are capable of being read to corroborate that work on the one hand, and those representations that alienate the barbarian, the savage, the exotic from the familiar conceptual framework of European epistemology on the other.

What privileges the work in progress (Rochefort's History) is the copious marginalia it uses to establish its authentic ground in ancient authorities: Lycurgus on travel and stealing, Severus on body painting, and Pliny on the antique legitimacy of ritual bodypainting with the colors red and vermilion, to cite only a few. Together, Rochefort and these revered classical sources collude to redeem this group of autochthonous peoples from the disrepute of savages, to immunize them from the calumnies heaped on other "barbarous" peoples. "Most savages are thieves," he confidently affirms, "But the Caribbians have so natural and so great an aversion to that sin, that there is no such thing [thieving] found among them, which is very rare among Savages ..." (269). One effect of this form of collusion is to furnish a critique of the work in progress by asserting the work's qualitative difference from those adversarial intelligences of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who, in the face of new knowledge, M.T. Ryan writes, "remained profoundly traditional in their intellectual postures, anchored firmly in a centuries-old wisdom that seemed impregnable before novelty" (524). The other effect, which flows from the first, is to identify the "Other" and his moral history with now-familiar nations and tribes from premiers temps, now assimilated into European consciousness. "Establishing that commonality," Ryan continues, "was the first step toward assimilation" (529). Ryan insists that this interest in exotics was a self-validating activity designed not toward any interest in knowing such people on their own terms, but as a way of "deliberately blunting the immediate experience of new peoples."

Another respect in which the civilized voice colludes self-reflexively in the narrative's ambiguous critique of the notion of "the work in progress" is in its definition of "the work" as the historical activity of colonization, more particularly the processes and consequences of the European disruption of Carib cultural integrity. Rochefort is preoccupied with evidences of Carib moral virtue. The pious attentions accorded the elderly and the total absence of parricide stir a repressed rhetorical anxiety about the uses of civilization among a people who are capable of "all the care" and "all the expressions of love, honour and respect that can be expected from a nation which hath no other light for its direction, than that of corrupt Nature" (347-48). Inserted into this pristine moral universe, the Europeans, according to Rochefort's account, evolve relations with the Caribs consistently vitiated by dissimulation, lying, and treachery. By thus opposing the two moral orders, Rochefort's History incriminates the narrative subject, indicting the Europeans with the moral degeneracy of the Caribs.

The geographical and narrative exploration of the New World by European subjects transmutes the pre-existent discourses and ameliorates images of the inhabitants, but more significantly, and inevitably, it refers the prospecting eye to the limitations of its own vision, to re-examine its assumptions and mental habits (Ryan 522). As Rochefort brings the critique of Greek, Roman, and Jewish antiquity to bear on his interpretation of the multiple references of "work," he mimics Montaigne's seminal inscription. De Certeau's characterization of that work as a "hermeneutics of the other" is a propos to the History: "On to the shores of the New World," he writes, "it [Montaigne's essay] transports the Christian exegetical apparatus which, born of a necessary relation with Jewish alterity, has been applied in turn to biblical tradition, to Greco-Latin, and to many more foreign totalities. On more than one occasion it draws effects of meaning from its relation with the other. Ethnology will become a form of exegesis that has not ceased providing the modern West with what it needs in order to articulate its identity through a relation with the past or the future, with foreign lands or with nature" (Writing of History 223).

Said and Pratt notwithstanding, the elegant civilized voice does not by any means monopolize all such narratives, and does not presume to do so in Rochefort's History. As in the figurations of colloquy, so the ambiguities of collusion in "the work in progress" permit very clear dialogic interventions through which the voice of the savage, the Carib point of view, appropriates the hermeneutic apparatus afforded it by the reversible nature of collusion itself. This apparatus deploys collusion as a critique that ironically construes the "work in progress" as the very process of colonization and its paradoxical relationship to the Enlightenment. When Rochefort accommodates the Carib voice in colloquys like those attributed to du Montel and Jean de Lery, that voice not only displays the deleterious effects European contacts wrought upon the Carib way of life, but also displays its native capacity for applying "the hermeneutics of the other" to deconstruct the nature of European civilization (Writing of History 223). Rochefort takes great pains to represent positively, in his own learned voice, matters like the Carib ethic of chastity, personal cleanliness, and indifference to material wealth:

As for themselves, they say they are not perplex'd with caring for those things whereby their lives are preserv'd; and indeed it must be acknowledged, that they are incomparably fatter, and have their health better than those that fare deliciously: Most certain it is, that they live without ambition, without vexation, without disquiet, having no desire of acquiring honours of wealth, slighting Gold and Silver.... (266)

Such expositions are dialogized by Carib collusions that are as ironic as they are self-reflexive. Even at this relatively early stage in the textualization of colonized objects, James Clifford's "new conditions of ethnographic production" manifest themselves. The Caribs assume the authority to interrogate the ethics of European imperialism:

how miserable art thou thus to expose thy person to such tedious and dangerous Voyages, and to suffer thyself to be oppress'd with cares and fears! The inordinate desire of acquiring wealth puts thee to all this trouble and all these inconveniences; and yet thou art in no less disquiet for the Goods thou hast already gotten, than for those thou art desirous to get. Thou art in continual fear lest somebody should rob thee either in thy own Country or upon the Seas, or that thy Commodities should be lost by shipwrack, and devour'd by the waters: Thus thou growest old in a short time, thy hair turns gray, thy forehead is wrinkled, a thousand inconveniences attend thy body, a thousand afflictions surround thy heart, and thou makest all the haste thou canst to the grave: Why dost thou not contemn riches as we do? (267)

Two kinds of collusions display themselves in these alternations of civilized with savage voice. The Caribs demonstrate their capacity to engage in rational processes, one of the highest of Enlightenment values. As they document the charges of cruelty, malice and victimization against the European interloper, they question the whole project of civilization, at the same time eroding the ethnographer's exclusive power to inscribe, and supplanting the old conditions of historiographical production. Clifford postulates this moment thus: It is no longer possible for the researcher to act as if he is the sole or primary bringer of culture into writing. In fact, the field is already filled with "intertextual presences" (116). The other function of collusion displayed in these reciprocal discourse transactions may best be illustrated in a stinging reproach against the civilized sense of justice: "thou hast driven me, says this poor people, out of St Christophers, Mevis, Montserrat, St Martin, Antego, Gardeloupe, Barbouthos, St Eustace, & c. neither of which places belonged to thee, and whereto thou couldst not make any lawful pretence:(5) And thou threatenest me every day to take away that little which is left me: What shall become of the poor miserable Caribbian? Must he go and live in the Sea with the fishes? Thy Country must needs be a wrteched one, since thou leavest it to come and take away mine: Or thou must needs be full of malice, thus to persecute me out of a frolick" (268). In that dramatic effusion, the Carib asserts command over the word and exhibits the ability to cut through European pretensions. The Carib voice confronts the historicizing or colonizing subject with the ironies of its material object. Again De Certeau's exegesis of a parallel scene in Montaigne's Of Cannibals illuminates why Rochefort ended his production of the foregoing lament with the understated hermeneutic tag: "This complaint may well exempt them from the opprobrious denomination of Savages." De Certeau defines the Montaigne scene as a moment when the savage word "draws closer to the place of production of the text that 'cites' it" (Heterologies 78). Further parallels are to be observed in Montaigne's references to crossing the ocean, addresses to the author, the reversibility of the sign "savage," and the paradox and disorder of French society. Altogether, these similarities embody the pattern and function of collusion, and these are distinctly implied in De Certeau's summation of what it means for the savage to control the word: "On the one hand, their speech, a critique of the injustice that divides our social body, judges us. On the other hand, as something groundbreaking and organizing, pathfinding in its own space, it precedes us, moving, passing on. It is always ahead of us, and always escapes us" (Heterologies 78).

That elusive quality of the Other's speech returns us inescapably to the founding premises of this critical reading of the History, and to the problematics of desire (intimated by Montaigne) that transfuse the general textual body of colonizing narratives. Analysis and interpretation of how rhetorical processes work to structure the meanings of historical narrative unseats facile presuppositions about the unitary or universal signification of historical texts. The unveiling of the various voices that collude to qualify the uses and meaning of "history" in Rochefort's narrative (the voices of the two ancient Caribbians in Book 2, Chapter 9, serve as a primary metaphor for this) permits the Other's grievous self-knowledge to rivet the narrative historiographer's subjective consciousness. The collusion of the processes of history with the modes of literature makes savage and civilized present to each other, makes them confront each other in a discursive arena referred to earlier as the "place of production of the text that 'cites' it." Collusion functions to draw the two modes of cognition--barbarism and civilization--closer by breaking the ground that lay between them. In this activity of drawing cognitive poles closer together, this "approximation," it mimics other historiographical tropes (viz. colloquy, to be discussed elsewhere in my published work), though the implied movement gathers its impetus from reflexes of desire and the deceit of fiction.

The reciprocal properties of collusion permit the two epistemological orders (European and Carib) to find each other's paths by the exchange of modes of verbal behavior, by the practice of deceitful discourses and by theatrical interplay. In sum, tropes like collusion permit self and Other to slip across each other's borders. This slippage, a characteristic motion of allegorical process, operates within Rochefort's narrative to reveal history as a process of "irresistible decay," an "always disappearing structure" which may catch only a fleeting glimpse but never fully apprehend or fix its object (Clifford 119). Rochefort's History proffers the grand rationalist design of diagnosing and translating signs.(6) Its cognitive culture demands that such signs be textualized, assimilated, and interpreted rhetorically.

(1) The name "Cesar de Rochefort" is also found on some title pages and bibliographic references. The History was originally published in French under the title Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Iles Antilles de L'Amerique (Rotterdam, 1665). Coauthorship of the work has been attributed to Louis de Poincy, colonial governor of the French Antilles, but this has not been substantiated. Very little biographical information exists about Rochefort (1605-1690). He was born in Belley (eastern France), studied law in Rome, and was honored for his public service. He is reported to have produced several notable literary works, the best known being the Dictionnaire generale des mots les plus usites de la langue francaise (Lyons, 1685).

(2) The OED shows the following pertinent entires for the term "collusion": [L. colludere a playing together, or into each other's hands] 1. secret agreement or understanding for purposes of trickery or fraud; deceit, fraud or trickery...3. a trick or ambiguity in words or reasoning.

(3) Both the Latin [alieni loquium = "other speech"] and Greek [transcribed as alle ougorein = "speaking otherwise than one seems to speak; other speaking"] voices of word "allegory" imply the author's quest for the Other. Stephen Barney defines this as a quest for a "vision of the other world" (16), and for the meaning of "the mystery at hand" (40).

(4) This "playing back" of customs, beliefs and mores of ancient peoples is a commonplace of colonizing narratives, and is found in Renaissance and early modern texts describing the indigenous peoples of the non-European world. It became conventional to compare and assimilate the manners and habits of the Native American to those of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and others. For further modern discussion of this mapping of premiers temps, see James Clifford.

(5) Nevis, Antigua, Guadeloupe, and Barbados are the modern spellings for the islands listed.

(6) For this notion of diagnosis and translation, I am indebted to De Certeau (224), where he discusses Jean de Lery's narrative objectives in the Histoire d'un Voyage faict en la terre du Bresil (1573) as intended to serve the ends of analysis and consumption "back home."

Works Cited

Barney, Stephen. Allegories of History, Allegories of Love. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1979.

Barthes, Roland. "The Diseases of Costume." Critical Essays. Trans. Richard Howard. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1972. 41-50.

Boucher, Philip. Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492-1763. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992.

Brulard, Ines. "Le Concept de Barbarie aux 16e et 17e Siecles dans les Ecrits de Voyageurs et d'Historiens Francais." Cahiers de L'Institut de Linguistique de Louvain 13.3-4 (1987): 89-102.

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Title Annotation:Charles de Rochefort, 'Natural and Moral History of the Caribby Islands'
Author:Sandiford, Keith A.
Publication:Papers on Language & Literature
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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